NASA Podcasts

This Week @ NASA, October 26, 2012
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This Week at NASA…


Following the docking of their Soyuz capsule, the newest residents of the International Space Station were welcomed to the place they’ll call home for the next five months. Expedition 33/34 Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency, NASA Flight Engineer Kevin Ford and Russian Flight Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin were warmly greeted by station Commander Suni Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko. The Expedition crew will continue to expand the scope of research aboard the ISS, taking advantage of its unique microgravity environment, performing experiments that cover human research, biological and physical sciences, technology development, Earth observations and education.

Mike Suffredini, ISS Program Manager: “We don’t know exactly where the leak is, it’s possible the leak is in the PVR itself, the radiator itself it could be in the pump system or it could be in any one of the lines.”

A station spacewalk by Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide is scheduled for November first. ISS program managers met with the media at the Johnson Space Center to discuss repairs the duo will perform to close an ammonia leak on one of the station’s port-side radiators. Ammonia circulated through the station’s external thermal control system keeps cool the orbiting laboratory’s electronics and other equipment. The November first EVA is scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m Eastern and last approximately 6-and-a-half hours.


Several days before the spacewalk, on October 28, the ISS crew will send off the visiting Dragon spacecraft for its return to Earth. The SpaceX cargo craft has been attached to the station since October 10, when it delivered about a half-ton of supplies. The successful return of Dragon this Sunday with more than 12-hundred pounds of scientific material and station hardware will confirm that the nation once again has the ability to transport supplies between Earth and the orbiting laboratory. Same day splashdown and recovery of Dragon is expected to happen in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California. Dragon’s CRS-1 mission is the first commercial cargo resupply mission to the station by SpaceX.


Ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS is a step closer for Blue Origin. NASA’s commercial crew program partner conducted a successful pad escape test at the company's West Texas Launch Site, firing its pusher escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a propulsion module simulator. NASA is working with commercial companies to develop space transportation systems that can carry humans to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station by 2017.

Those watching Hurricane Sandy down here on the ground have been helped by views like these from up there in space. Here’s the storm as it’s appeared to the Expedition 33 crew aboard the ISS. And data collected by GOES satellites allow animators at the Goddard Space Flight Center to create movies like this/these of how the storm tracked through the Caribbean and up the East Coast of the U.S. These space-based assets help forecasters and emergency personnel assess a storm’s strength and prepare for any eventuality


The aftermath of a rare, massive storm on Saturn has caught the infrared eye of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Data captured during the storm from January 2011 to March 2012 reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, indicating that the storm was more forceful than previously thought. Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer, the CIRS, revealed the storm's powerful discharge sent the temperature in Saturn's stratosphere soaring 150 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

NASA's newest set of X-ray eyes in the sky, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), has caught its first look at the giant black hole parked at the center of our galaxy. The observations show the usually-quiet Sagittarius A star in the middle of a flare-up. That happens when a black hole gobbles up stars and other fuel around them. Sagittarius A is thought only to nibble or not eat at all, a process that is not fully understood. Launched June 13, NuSTAR is the only telescope capable of producing focused images of the highest-energy X-rays. Among other telescopes contributing to these observations was NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.


Nina Lanza, MSL ChemCam Researcher: Hi, I'm Nina Lanza, I’m a post-doc on the ChemCam instrument and this is your Curiosity rover update.

This has been a very exciting week for the Curiosity rover. It delivered its 3rd sample to the CHIMRA to complete its cleaning regimen and also we’ve done our first CheMin analysis and we’ve got a second one on the way. In its spare time, Curiosity has also been making measurements with other instruments, including the ChemCam instrument, which is what I work on.

ChemCam is actually two instruments in one. It includes a camera with a telephoto lens and it also has a laser that vaporizes a very small amount of rock so we can tell what its chemical composition is. And as of this week, we will have done 10,000 shots with the ChemCam laser.

This week we’ve been analyzing rocks in an area called Rocknest, and I’ll tell you in particular about one called Zephyr. This one is interesting because it appears to be made of 2 different types of materials.

It’s got this harder, more resistant material on the top, capping it, and then beneath it has a lighter colored softer material that appears to erode more easily.

It’s actually eroded into a set of natural arches, so some of our team members have taken to calling it, “Stonehenge.”

This feature is really only an inch long and we’re shooting this from about 8 feet away, making the pointing very difficult.

So that’s why we decided to do 9 points instead of just 2, just to make sure we would hit the material of interest.

We ended up hitting both the dark and the light material and we found that there was indeed a compositional difference.

In addition to composition, we’ve also been able to make a three-dimensional model of the surface of this target using images from the Remote Micro-Imager part of ChemCam.

We’ve also used ChemCam to measure soils, such as crestaurum. Here you can see a before image, and then after image where you can see the crater left by the laser.

This week ChemCam did its very first depth profile, in which we shot the laser 600 times in a single location, in order to tunnel through the surface of the rock. Now, this only tunnels about one millimeter in depth, but it can help us understand how the composition of the sample changes from the surface to the interior.

Coming up, we’ll be able to use this information that we’ve learned from ChemCam in order to decide which targets we should hit next with other instruments.

This has been your Curiosity rover report. Please check back for more updates.

Inspired by Curiosity was this 200-foot mural dedicated at P.S. 328 in New York City. The “Red Road to Mars” was created by artist Pansum Cheng and New York CITYarts staff, interns and volunteers based on the ideas, drawings and poems of the elementary school students’ shared dreams of reaching for the stars.

Lillian Reichenthal, Executive Officer, Mars Exploration Program: “Our goal at NASA is more than just the engineering and science. Our goal is to also to inspire people and change lives. Your mural captures this time in history along with your future dreams and possibilities. Keep dreaming, work hard and yes, education is very important for you to get there.”

Helping produce the “Red Road to Mars” mural was the P.S. 328 after-school center, with support from NASA, Benjamin Moore Paints and the Michael Tuch Foundation.


The Michoud Assembly Facility played host to SLS Industry Day to help suppliers and other businesses better acquaint themselves with NASA's acquisition strategies. More than 90 companies and 40 government entities explored partnership opportunities with the Space Launch System Program. Joining SLS Program manager, Todd May at the event was Marshall Space Flight Center Director, Patrick Scheuermann. Scheuermann, who directed Michoud’s Hurricane Katrina recovery while center director at Stennis, also was guest at a MAF all-hands meeting.


The final “roll” of Space shuttle Atlantis from Kennedy Space Center’s Orbiter Processing Facility 2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building is complete. Atlantis has been undergoing preparations for public display. The orbiter is scheduled to move to its new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on November 2. A grand opening is planned for Atlantis at the Visitor Complex next July.


Solar System Exploration @ 50, a two-day symposium about the past, present and future of solar system exploration was held at the Lockheed Martin Global Vision Center outside Washington. The event commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first successful planetary mission, Mariner 2’s voyage to Venus in 19-62, and highlighted the subsequent half-century of achievements.

James L. Green, Director, NASA Planetary Science Division: “There are countries in this world that dream about the stuff that NASA does. And it’s because we do some of these things that are absolutely astounding because we need to make progress in the science questions that we want to answer.”

Solar System Exploration @ 50 was sponsored by NASA’s History Program Office, Science Mission Directorate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

FORBIDDEN PLANET – KSC (CP) George Diller Reporting

Kennedy Space Center employees, their families and the community across Florida's Space Coast got a taste of Hollywood Oct. 13.

Turner Classic Movies presented the 1956 sci-fi classic, "Forbidden Planet," at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, along with astronaut and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, were joined by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz.

The event was part of the network's Road to Hollywood tour, giving communities across the country the chance to enjoy timeless movies in a film-festival atmosphere.

Ben Mankiewicz, Turner Classic Movies Host: “We picked "Forbidden Planet" because I think it's one of the sci-fi movies from that sort of seminal age of sci-fi movies that is taken seriously, that's not, you know... you don't laugh at "Forbidden Planet." It's kind of a highbrow movie. It's pretty sophisticated. And I think that our fascination with science fiction, unquestionably, had a lot to do with the country's willingness to fund and grow the space program in the seminal years of the space program in the 50s and 60s.”

The nationwide tour leads up to the Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in April 2013.

Six years ago, on October 26, 2006, NASA released the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory into the heavens to stereographically image the sun and its emissions. The two identical spacecraft, Stereo A, and Stereo-B, orbit our star, one ahead of the Earth, the other trailing. Together, they provide scientists with a better view of how solar storms begin and evolve as they move from the sun into space.

NASA ANNIVERSARY: NPP Launch, October 28, 2011
And a year ago on October 28, NPP, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project was launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California. The NOAA weather satellite, since renamed for meteorologist, Verner Suomi, is part of NASA's Earth Observing System, a series of satellites providing new insight into our planet’s ecosystem.

And that’s This Week @NASA.

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